As you have already seen courtesy of a piece by new contributor Robert Kelly on three things that won't happen in Northeast Asia this year, we've decided to invert the January ritual of making predictions about the coming year. So here's my short list of things that won't happen in 2014, for good and ill.
A US military strike on Iran
Thanks to the warming of diplomatic relations between Tehran and the West in the closing months of 2013, war weariness in the US, and the manner in which US moves to strike Syria were undermined last year in the UK House of Commons and by Russia, it's difficult to see this one coming onto the agenda in 2014. There's also the fact that Iranian President Hassan Rohani shows no inclination towards Ahamdinejad-like provocations.
Australia acknowledging the full consequences of China's growth
Just as it suited the previous government to offer starry-eyed optimism about Australia's future of unbounded economic opportunity in the Asian century, so the new government has called for a trade-first foreign policy and re-endorsed the Howard-era mantra that Australia does not need to choose between the US and China. But wanting and needing are not the same thing. As John Mearsheimer has recently warned:
...why would a powerful China accept U.S. military forces operating in its backyard? American policymakers, after all, go ballistic when other great powers send military forces into the Western Hemisphere. Those foreign forces are invariably seen as a potential threat to American security. The same logic should apply to China. Why would China feel safe with U.S. forces deployed on its doorstep? Following the logic of the Monroe Doctrine, would not China’s security be better served by pushing the American military out of Asia?
But facing up to this reality and crafting a policy response is painful and potentially expensive, so don't expect to hear much from the Government on this topic in 2014.
The US Republican Party returning to sanity
It feels like the GOP will need to lose another presidential election before it realises that appealing to your base while alienating the broad mass of centrist uncommitted voters is not a winning strategy. Meanwhile, 'establishment' foreign policy Republicans with whom Australians and other Asian elites are used to dealing (eg. Kissinger, Scowcroft, Powell, Armitage) have become relics of a party that barely knows them nor understands their traditions of thought.
Progress toward a global greenhouse emissions treaty
John Kerry sure does have a weakness for long shots, doesn't he? First he makes Middle East peace the centrepiece of his term as Secretary of State, and according to the New York Times, now he's trying to negotiate a climate agreement for 2015. We should all wish him well and hope he succeeds, but I share Stephen Walt's pessimism. And as economist Paul Frijters points out, the temptation for nations to free-ride rather than make sacrifices remain incredibly strong.
Fossil fuels in decline
It pains me to say it, but despite the boom in solar energy production, neither solar nor any other renewable is making an impact on global energy production figures. In fact, as Roger Pielke pointed out last year, the share of renewables in the global energy mix has actually declined in recent years, because the global demand for energy is so great that even the rise of cheap solar has not been able to keep up, let alone make inroads.